What are you looking at? Well, those are two boxes overflowing with sample beauty products that I’ll be bringing with me. I have this weird belief that my body gets used to certain health and beauty products, so it’s more effective to swap products every now and then. When you’re backpacking you want to pack light(ish), so it’s hard to justifying carrying an entire bottle of moisturizing shampoo and an entire bottle of volumizing shampoo (okay, and an entire bottle of sulphate-free shampoo and and entire bottle of color-enhancing shampoo and all four matching conditioners… are you getting an idea of how my bathroom counters look?). This is why samples are a lipglossed-backpacker’s best friend.
First, pack a few small samples in your carry-on in case you arrive before your luggage. You’ll want to pack a small toothpaste, face wash, body wash (or soap), shampoo and conditioner. How do you get these? Ask your dentist for a few sample tubes of toothpaste- he or she won’t say no! If you’re a regular at your hair salon they should be happy to give you a sample or two of shampoo and conditioner. One little package of shampoo or conditioner should last at least two uses, so this will tide you over until your bags arrive. (Don’t forget that conditioner can double as hydrating shave cream on legs and underarms. Not recommended for facial use AND slightly useless in a discussion of carry-on beauty supplies as carrying on a razor is pretty much the dumbest thing you can do.) For soap or body wash, help yourself each and every time you’re at a hotel. I’ve had less luck getting free face wash, so I buy small tubes of St. Ives Apricot Scrub from the travel-sized section of my local pharmacy (they’re less than a dollar each).
Other great samples that I’ve got recently include sunscreen from Neutrogena (follow them, and other beauty companies, on Facebook and you’ll be the first to know about free sample giveaways), perfume from Sephora (I bought something too, I’m not a total moocher!), a variety of hair treatments from my salon (free with check-in on Yelp- see if your salon offers a similar promotion) and of course, everything from face wash to moisturizer to mascara to deep-conditioning treatments from beauty boxes. Here in Canada my favorite box is GlossyBox, which costs $15 a month and has the best samples (I’ve tried- and cancelled- two other boxes). You can subscribe using my referral link above or just type “Glossybox” into Google (duh). Expect four to six great samples in your GlossyBox every month; you might get some full-sized products too.
Traveling with sample-sized products also means you’re constantly clearing space in your toiletries case. This gives you some flexibility to buy and try local beauty products. I found some amazing nail polish in Turkey- I think this stuff might actually be car paint in a nail polish bottle… it stays on forever. And I got some highly-concentrated tea tree oil in Mexico that cured all of my skin’s woes… for pennies. So next time a pushy brand representative tries to shove a free sample at you in the drugstore, take it! You can thank me later, like when you arrive in Ecuador after a sixteen-hour flight and you’re grimy and dirty and your bags went to Eritrea instead of Ecuador by accident, and you really just want to have a shower, and thankfully you have a little bar of soap and a package of shampoo in your carry-on.